The only time all day Donald Trump didn’t own the spotlight as much as he owned the Doral resort came Sunday as the sun was sinking and the 18th green of the Blue Monster golf course filled with luminaries for the ceremony honoring newly minted champion Adam Scott.
Trump and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had met earlier in the day and agreed the billionaire presidential candidate would do something wholly uncustomary — not be the center of attention for once. They didn’t want to politicize Scott’s moment, or give the candidate’s Republican rivals a chance to demand equal time on NBC.
So there was Trump, trying to be as inconspicuous as one can be wearing a white “Make America Great Again” ball cap and, well, and being Donald Trump.
It didn’t work, of course.
Finchem had the microphone and some guy from Cadillac presented the World Golf Championships trophy to Scott, but Trump was still the star as he stood off the green watching.
“President Trump!” somebody in the stands yelled, and it caught his ear.
The Donald spun, pointed and smiled.
It was a day like no other in the history of the PGA Tour’s relationship with Doral, which has been going on uninterrupted since 1962.
If Sunday proves to have been the tour’s final tournament at Doral after more than 50 years here, well, history would note we went out strong — that the punctuation was an exclamation point.
The continuous run at Doral, now in its sixth decade, is in some doubt, which lent a sentimental element to Sunday’s final round. The tour and Doral have a contract through 2023, but part of that deal allows that a new title sponsor of this WGC event contractually may move the tournament elsewhere. The tour’s tenuous relationship with Doral owner Trump over some of his controversial remarks also might factor in.
Finchem, in a news conference here Sunday, reiterated a “full evaluation” would determine whether the event would continue at Doral, but said, “We’ve been here over 50 years and enjoyed very strong support from the Miami market. We’re very cognizant of our history here. Our hope is the future could allow us to stay here.”
There was a Big Top quality, and event feel, to the day. It was a compelling final round of golf by a star-filled leaderboard amid the overarching circus of presidential politics. A handful of players were chasing a $1.6 million first-prize check while throngs of golf fans were chasing celebrity-candidate Trump in an unusual challenge for his Secret Service detail.
The golf could not have been much more compelling. You had Rory McIlroy blowing a four-shot lead. You had fan favorites Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson in the hunt ’til the end. And ultimately you had Scott, the 35-year-old Aussie and 2013 Masters champion, reigning again after also winning last week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.
But if the tournament was good, the circus was even better.
Recall the most memorable Sundays South Florida has seen across the venerable Blue Monster course since that first one in ’62, and any short list had better include the one we just enjoyed. Trump, love him or loath him, made it so.
The Donald arrived by helicopter at around 1:30 p.m., his chopper setting down on Doral’s nearby Red Tiger course for security reasons. But within minutes he was in a golf cart (driving of course) and rolling around the Blue Monster like he owned the place.
His first stop was the driving range, where he chit-chatted with McIlroy about 15 minutes before he teed off, perhaps dooming McIlroy to the 74 that would ruin his lead and his day.
Trump affably signed many autographs and posed for many pictures with potential voters. It was funny to watch star-struck golf fans contorting their smart phones to take selfies that hopefully included Trump in the frame.
The candidate wore his ubiquitous campaign-slogan hat throughout the day, which was good, because the strong wind raking the course Sunday would have turned The Donald’s famous crown of a coif into a riot.
There had been an indication Trump was not planning to avail himself to the media on Sunday here, although unsurprisingly that didn’t happen. With the Florida presidential primary less than a week away, there were cameras to charm and voters to woo and, of course, Marco Rubio to slam.
“Rubio is a terrible senator, a no-show senator,” the unsubtle Trump declared Sunday of the Florida senator running against him. “He couldn’t get elected dog catcher.”
Would you mind a quick aside?
How great would it be if the mean-spirited tone of Republican presidential debates became common in sports, too? For instance, imagine if Sunday’s winner, Scott, in his postmatch news conference, had lambasted McIlroy as a choker, called Watson a liar and mocked Mickelson as having small hands.
Trump thankfully was more lighthearted in dealing with the public who followed in his wake all day, or at least as close as the Secret Service would allow.
Trump exited his meeting with Finchem as dozens of waiting fans or curiosity seekers were cordoned off. The Donald stopped along the way to pose for photos as people maneuvered to record the moment.
The candidate saw an older man in a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
“Gimmie that,” Trump said, and, unsolicited, signed the bill of the cap.
Fans seemed to delight in calling his name to get a wave, or, in some cases, a smile.
“Little Marco!” somebody shouted, echoing what Trump has called Rubio.
The Donald tipped one of his smirk smiles at the sound as he disappeared into a phalanx of Secret Service.
“Win Florida!” somebody else shouted after Trump.
A woman in a pink Nike visor seemed impressed as she spoke to her friend.
“I still wouldn’t vote for him. God no!” she said. “But he did seem nice.”